23 September 2013, Johannesburg – South Africa advanced its electricity infrastructure expansion programme at the weekend with the re-opening of the 1 200 MW Grootvlei power station in Balfour, Mpumalanga province.
Built in the 1960s, the plant was mothballed in 1990 due to excess power in the country at the time. Its reopening follows a R7.2-billion upgrade.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the re-opening on Friday, President Jacob Zuma said it would give state company Eskom much-needed space in which to conduct maintenance on its other power stations.
Zuma said the government had prioritised infrastructure development because it is critical to enabling and promoting economic growth.
“The station adds to the progress we are making with Eskom’s return-to-service projects, which also include the Camden and Komati power stations. The reopening of Grootvlei and other build programmes will help us to reverse the electricity difficulties we have been experiencing since 2007.”
Zuma said the power plant would create jobs for 3 800 people during peak operations, with 1 100 employees coming from the local community.
State company Transnet will also be reinstating the Grootvlei-Balfour railway line, which will initially transport three-million tons of coal per annum to the power plant.
“We expect the first phase of the project to be completed by December this year and the second phase by April 2014,” Zuma said. “Already, nine kilometres of track have been successfully installed on this rail line, which will ultimately be 30 kilometres long.
Zuma said that South Africa had laid down 3 200 kilometres of new transmission lines over the last few years in order to extend the country’s power grid to rural communities.
Just over one-million new households were connected to the grid over the past five years, Zuma said, benefiting more than four-million South Africans.